The target beneficiary of the work of OLIP is the whole community. In this short period we have planted together important seeds for Ottawa’s development.  

Dick Stewart
OLIP Council
My nomination is an indication that our hard work in building Canada is recognized. All we do is to serve the community in return for embracing us when we needed it.  

Mehdi Mahdavi
Ottawa Immigrant Entrepreneurship Awards Nominee
OLIP helps to unite and share scarce resources for greater impact by working together in the field of student education.

Walter Piovesan
Associate Director of Education, Ottawa Carleton District School Board
The WOW seminar on immigrant women’s nutrition and health was a step in the right direction towards closing the gap between academic researchers and service providers.

Josephine Etowa
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Ottawa
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre
The work and expertise that OLIP brings to our community is so important as it helps us to build bridges and break down silos.  I look forward to our continued work together. 

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
The City of Ottawa will continue to play a lead role in the implementation of the Ottawa Immigration Strategy, just as we did in the founding of OLIP.

Steve Desroches
City Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Ottawa
In our city’s history, immigrants have always played an important role. They build our economic prosperity, diversify our culture, contribute to our social vitality.

Jim Watson
Mayor of Ottawa
I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
I’m really impressed with the level of energy and commitment around the Health and Wellbeing table and look forward to continuing collaboration between OLIP and OPH.

Marcela Tapia
Ottawa Public Health

Report Summary: The Arrival and Settlement of Syrian Refugees in Ottawa – System Responses, Lessons Learned and Future Directions

Ottawa Syrian Refugee Research Initiative
November 2017

Between November 2015 and late 2016, more than 2,000 Syrian refugees arrived in Ottawa. Although refugees arrive in Ottawa every year, this was a large number and the very short time period during which the Syrians arrived constituted an exceptional situation. There was a vast and varied network of agencies and organizations that had a hand in welcoming and settling Syrian refugees, and they crossed many sectors. The settlement sector was naturally key, but it was not alone; housing, education, employment, health and three levels of government were all involved.

With funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) spearheaded a research initiative with the aim of creating a common understanding of the successes and challenges of the community-wide effort to settle the Syrian refugees in Ottawa and learning from this experience.

The research team interviewed 60 service providers and reviewed 160 documents over the spring and summer of 2017. Immigrant Women Services Organization, Somerset West Community Health Centre, and the Alliance to End Homelessness worked with OLIP to conduct sectoral data collection and analysis, all of which was compiled into one community lens analysis that forms the content of the Ottawa Syrian Refugee Research Initiative Report.

The research highlighted a large number of successes in the community response to Syrian refugees, including excellent partnerships, an exceptional commitment and level of effort from service providers, even when funding and resources were not commensurate with the task. Partnerships and collaborations criss-crossed this array of actors, including established collaboration tables and new relationships were formed. Many new practices and adaptation of existing services and programs took place in response to meet the unique needs of Syrian refugees, and the innovation and flexibility of service providers was noteworthy. The public response to the arrival of the refugees was overwhelming – more than $900,000 was raised locally and over 5,000 community members offered their help as volunteers.

There were challenges and important lessons were learned, both from the successes and from the setbacks. The lessons learned, and the possible directions for the future flowing from them, were grouped into the following seven main areas.

  1. Strengthen collaboration capacity within and across sectors, including settlement, health, housing, youth and municipal services. Service providers need to better understand each other’s mandates and practices develop protocols for working together at the task level to support the same clients, and strengthen data sharing with adequate privacy protections.
  2. Improve dissemination of timely and accurate information about refugees who are arriving, in order to inform planning and preparation of necessary services. Strengthen the capacity of service organizations to communicate with private sponsors of refugees and share information on services available to privately sponsored families.
  3. Develop a local settlement and integration strategy that is focused on newcomer youth 60% of the government assisted refugees who arrived from Syria to Ottawa in late 2015 to end of 2016 were younger than 18 years of age. Unique challenges arose in their initial settlement period that may affect their integration. There is a need to build a common understanding of challenges and there is a need to identify and leverage good practices that support young refugees’ successful integration in host communities.
  4. Address service gaps and funding shortfalls in areas such as wraparound services for refugees with complex needs, language and cultural interpretation across sectors, mental health counselling services, dental care, childcare (which is essential to allow parents to access services, attend language classes, and so on) and transportation (also essential to accessing services).
  5. Ensure equity and fairness in policies, programs, and investments. A number of measures were introduced by the government specifically for Syrian refugees, and it is suggested that these be extended to all refugees. The needs of specific groups of refugees (women, children, youth, seniors, those with disabilities, LGBTQ refugees and others) are to be taken into account. Equitable access to French language services, including schooling, is essential. Service providers across sectors need to be trained in equity, trauma-informed care, and cultural competency.
  6. Improve the policy environment that governs supports for refugees. Although the federal, provincial and municipal were highly effective in many areas, more coordination among them is needed, including transitions from supports available in the first 12 months and those that start in month 13. Refugees were offered supports from private sector landlords and others, and these gifts are subject to clawbacks. The period of funding for some programs needs to be extended to more realistically reflect the duration of actual need. It is important to ensure social assistance is commensurate with basic living expenses and to invest in affordable housing.
  7. Leverage and strengthen community and public engagement. The outpouring of public support for Syrian refugees was remarkably strong, but it often outstripped the capacity of community organizations to properly organize and channel it. Capacity needs to be built to engage volunteers and leverage public support. Public education campaigns on equity, anti-racism, and access to employment, contribution of immigrants will help sustain the current public support and extend sympathy and support for all newcomers.
  8. Undertake a complementary local research that documents the experience of the Syrian refugees in their first year of arrival in Ottawa. The report focused on the experience of service providers whose aim was to make the Syrian refugees’ settlement experience easy and effective. Hearing directly from Syrian refugees themselves about the successes and shortcomings of Ottawa’s response will help inform service organizations’ service planning. Furthermore, there are a number of research studies on the arrival of the Syrian refugees that are underway across Canada, and it will be important to ensure these results are widely shared and discussed to enhance community learning.